Who Needs Open Records?

Year after year, various organizations, particularly our local daily paper, find themselves battling with our state government over various records. As long as one can remember our representatives have been very selective as to what governmental information is provided to the public. Any request for information, even for those records that are specifically written into law as open to the public, generally results in some sort of battle or a lame denial.
A perfect example occurred earlier this year when the Argus requested the wage information of the state’s employees. They certainly had the right to request this info, but they were turned down on the basis that it would be too much work. Come on, that’s insane. The state pretty much admitted so once they discovered they were going to lose that battle, and a few clicks on a keyboard resulted in the paper getting exactly what they wanted.
Although the Republican apologists did their best to turn this battle into a liberal versus conservative fight, overall public opinion (and also a few non-biased experts) has begun voicing their displeasure over our state’s secrecy. It’s clear that some changes must be explored by our legislature.
State Senator Dave Knudson has elected himself as the person to bring about these changes, and while the headlines surrounding his decision to write a bill to open more records have been complimentary, a cynic like myself can’t help but believe that he’s doing nothing more than to ensure that too much information doesn’t become available to you and me.
Not only are staff members from Governor Rounds’ office involved in formulating the bill, Knudson himself is openly saying that he will not include anything in the bill that the Governor doesn’t want. “If the governor says Section Two will be vetoed, I’m not going to include Section Two,” he told the Argus this past weekend.
Talk about gutless. Knudson wants us to only see what the Governor thinks we should see, and the only reason he’s authoring this piece of legislation is to ensure that a real bill doesn’t get introduced or debated. Richard Nixon would be so proud of Mr. Knudson. A true patriot would draft a bill that spells out what’s right, not what the leader of his party says he wants. It’s because of this sort of crony-ism that many of our country’s current problems exist.
I know what the reaction to this rant will be from around 40% of the public who reads it. I’ll be given the dreaded “liberal” label simply because I criticize a Republican. As I’ve said many times, I don’t belong to either party and I never will. This issue is not and should not be considered a partisan issue. Allowing the public to know what’s happening in Pierre, let alone Washington, D.C., should be the norm no matter which party is in power. The fact that Knudson is giving his constituents the finger as he writes this bill is more than enough reason to send him packing.


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